Graeme McDowell’s confident he’s buried last Sunday’s L A meltdown after birding his closing two holes on the opening day of the Honda Classic.
McDowell managed four birdies, three more than last Sunday, along with four bogeys in bright but windy condition for a level par 70 on the PGA National course at Palm Beach Gardens.
It handed McDowell a share of 21st place, only four strokes behind Sweden’s Alex Noren and former U.S. Open winner Webb Simpson who head the field with four-under par 66s.
McDowell was tied with Tiger Woods who was just one shot off the lead early in his round before taking a double-bogey at his 12th hole but bouncing back with a birdie at 13 in his 70.
In fact, McDowell ended the day as the leading Irishman with Rory McIlroy doubling the last in a score of 72, playing partner and fellow former Honda Classic winner, Padraig Harrington posting a shock 76.
Shane Lowry, who like McDowell, was out in the morning half of the field, signed for a one-over par 71 and Semus Power tailed out the five Irish with a 77.
McDowell was just two shots off the Genesis Open lead last week at Riviera but all hopes of a first taste of success since November 2015 faded in posting a closing round 77.
“To birdie the last two holes was nice as I played the easiest part of the golf course badly and the hard part of this course well,” he said.
“I feel like it is a pretty good round of golf with those two birdies and I would have taken level par teeing off the first this morning as it was very tricky out there. And looking back on last Sunday, it was a step backwards while the three days before had been three steps in the right direction.”
“So, Sunday hurt for a while but I had to try and take the positives out of the week which I did ,and I have come into this week continuing to really swing the club well as I had done for the first three days of the Genesis and in the weeks before that.”
“I like this PGA National course as I see my way well around here and I played great in the pro-am and I continued to hit some really good shots today. So, if I just keep the pedal down it will happen. Sometimes you have to have a few Sunday Riviera’s to kind of throw up a little bit.”
Lowry was hosting McDowell and his caddy to a bar-b-que on Thursday night given Lowry’s Mirasol Resort rented house is just four kilometres from the front door at PGA National.
And residing with Lowry’s this week is his long-time coach, Neil Manchin, who, with Lowry, is delighted with their work together this week after posting a one-over par 71.
“I played good today and while I three-putted 16 and missed a great chance at 17, overall I am quite happy as I have struggled the past few weeks,” he said.
“Neil arrived Monday evening and we have done some great stuff the last few days and it was mirrored out there today. I last saw Neil about a month ago when I was over at Torrey Pines and all I was doing was getting in my own way, and thankfully nothing to do with my golf swing.”
“Also, when I was making mistakes I was letting it get to me, so to have Neil over this week and what is a ‘home’ venue for me sees me very happy.”
Lowry’s round was a mix of three birdies and four bogeys.